When the Piano Lesson Honeymoon is Over: What Do We Do Next?
You know how it is: when things are new, they are fresh and exciting.
Just got a new (or new-to-you) piano? Fantastic! Fun to play on, goof around with, experiment on to find cool sound combinations.
And then come the piano lessons: "When do we get to start?" the kids eagerly ask.
The lesson starting day finally arrives, and the kids revel in the joy of it all --- this instrument is fun! Learning how to play it is great!
They go home from the first lesson and almost immediately, or for sure before the next day ends, enthusiastically try out what they learned.
And playing piano keeps being fun and great . . . for a while. Maybe weeks . . . months . . . sometimes a full year or even longer.
And then . . . the kids have settled into a routine, where learning piano isn't a novelty anymore. They're starting to see that sometimes piano isn't all that easy. In fact, it can be hard work!
They might start to need reminders to practice, because they're no longer playing the piano each day, much less bounding over to the instrument to sit down and practice.
Piano parents, here is where the piano study honeymoon period has come to an end. Sure, there might still be a kind of delight in it for the kids, especially as they experience periodic successes. But the joy is blended with the firsthand knowledge that dedication, discipline, and determination are involved in this whole piano lesson venture.
They're learning that, like for most musicians, practicing piano isn't all fun and excitement all the time.
Where do we go from here? What's the best solution forward when the initial excitement has toned down, and students realize more fully the challenges of piano study?
Here are thoughts for you, dear parents, when you find your children at this juncture on the piano lessons path. I can guarantee that, almost without exception, they WILL come to this point, and you have tools to help them THROUGH it!
Talk with your children. Convey how proud you are of them for the work they've already put in with their piano studies. Let them know they've hit a natural bump in the road that practically everyone experiences in the music lesson journey. Encourage them by recalling the wonderful feelings they got from the successes they've experienced from their hard work.
Talk with your teacher. He or she won't be surprised that the thrill has died down. But sometimes there are things going on in students' lives of which the teacher isn't aware. Sharing with the teacher (what you feel comfortable with) about your children's lives can sometimes facilitate decision making about needed changes in practice routines, repertoire choices, and other tweaks that can benefit the children as they balance music lessons with life as it currently is.
Revisit your goals for piano study. Ask your teacher for an approximate time range that your children may need to accomplish your or their stated goals. Is patience with that process needed, or are there more appropriate goals to adopt now that teacher and student are more familiar with each others' strengths and their working relationship?
Ask yourself --- and your older children, whom I recommend have a say in the discussion --- whether your current teacher is helping to accomplish your goals and is right for your children. Sometimes a change of teacher is exactly what a student needs to rekindle excitement for playing piano. All private piano teachers focus more on certain aspects of musicianship than other aspects. Getting "new eyes" --- a new perspective on playing from someone who hasn't been hearing your children play for a number of years like your present teacher perhaps has --- can do motivational wonders for the children whose routines with the current teacher may have become more of a rut.
Regularly participating in master classes or entering into adjudicated music festivals can also give students a fresh perspective from another teacher's point of view without actually changing teachers. If your children are continuing to grow musically and enjoy their lessons, but could benefit from a fresh approach periodically (they likely can!), ask your teacher about opportunities to observe or play in events like these.
Does your child want or need a different instrument, either to add to or substitute for piano study? Piano is an excellent instrument on which to begin music instruction. Students who take up another instrument after (or during) piano study learn firsthand the many benefits that prior piano studies confer on any new musical instrument study that follows. This knowledge can renew passion for piano itself when one sees how advantageous piano lessons have been in learning rhythm and reading, for starters, as well as making it evident how far one has advanced on piano since the first lesson!
I am all for examining the reasons why the initial enthusiasm for piano study can wear off over time. In most cases, the drop-off in excitement is completely normal due to the newness of the venture being replaced by routine and awareness of the work involved.
At organic times like that, encouragement to see our children through the anticipated rough patches in their endeavors can bring deeply satisfying experiences as they learn to overcome obstacles while working to fulfill their goals.
However, let me issue a caveat: if your children are stressed about piano lessons, or you believe they are beginning to hate music for whatever reason, I believe it is best to allow them to discontinue studying piano.
Parents of older children, let them make that decision themselves. Parents of younger children, be aware of any red flags that may indicate your children need a temporary or permanent break from lessons, and advocate for them by withdrawing them from their piano studies.
Some children who stop lessons will return to it in later years. Others will take different paths in life and not ever return to piano study, though they may play the piano now and then for enjoyment. Yet others will enjoy being consumers of music created and performed by others.
When the joy of music is encouraged and nurtured; when students are given autonomy at appropriate ages to chart their musical course; and when teachers and parents advocate in the children's best interests in music and life, a path of joy and delight can open broad horizons for the young people with whom we've been blessed in our homes and studios.